Because animals like dogs and cats aren’t always treated in humane ways, especially at puppy mills and similar facilities, two students at Crystal Lake Central High School in Chicago’s northwestern suburbs took it upon themselves to volunteer at a local animal shelter and write about what they saw in their student newspaper, CLC Orange and Black.
Volunteering at a rescue facility and adoption service in Huntley called the Animal House Shelter, Kathryn Greenlea and Lauren Bednaroski say they learned a lot about inbreeding at puppy mills and the frequently inhumane treatment animals receive at breeding centers.
Puppy mills “are an evil source of inbreeding and imprisonment for innocent animals to help produce the ‘perfect’ purebred,” they write. The way the puppy mills accomplish this is to force dogs “to mate to produce a desired look or make offspring that are 100 percent of a certain breed. This can quickly cross over into inbreeding when related purebred dogs produce more purebred offspring” and subsequently lead to “dogs having several health problems.”
The technique “can definitely affect the animal’s quality of life overall … being that it could end up being unsociable with humans and other animals or it can inherit a horrible immune system,” they quote one of the employees at the Animal House Shelter as saying. “When animals first come to the shelter, they are scared and sick and in very bad condition.”
Example of inbreeding
According to research from the University of California, improving the health of a breed can be very difficult once inbreeding has reduced the variation within the gene pool. Published last summer in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, the report documents how English bulldogs started from a relatively small genetic base of 68 individuals in 1835 and have since undergone a number of human-created artificial bottlenecks.
English bulldogs don’t exactly lead happy, healthy—or long—lives. But breeders have convinced people to pay for dogs with certain coat colors or other traits, all while those people couldn’t care less about the harm those breeding choices are doing to the actual dogs born into this world.
Large regions of the bulldog’s genome have as a result of extreme inbreeding been altered to attain changes in its outward appearance. Significant loss of genetic diversity has especially been observed in the genome where genes regulate normal immune responses. The dogs can’t fight simple infections and suffer painful deaths.
“These changes have occurred over hundreds of years but have become particularly rapid over the last few decades,” said Niels Pedersen of the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC, the study’s lead author. “Breeders are managing the little diversity that still exists in the best possible manner, but there are still many individuals sired from highly inbred parents. Unfortunately eliminating all the mutations may not solve the problem as this would further reduce genetic diversity. We would also question whether further modifications, such as rapidly introducing new rare coat colors, making the body smaller and more compact and adding more wrinkles in the coat, could improve the bulldog’s already fragile genetic diversity.”